Dear Luv Doc,
I'm hoping you can settle an ongoing argument me and my wife have been having. A few years ago my wife's sister married a guy she had been crushing on since high school. It was his second marriage and they reconnected through Facebook. Sparks flew, they had a torrid romance, and we got a new brother-in-law that my wife can't stand. He's one of those alpha male jock type guys who drives a big pickup, chews tobacco, and likes to go drinking with his buddies at the bar after work. Every time we go to her sister's house, she complains about him all the way home ... and they live in Houston. I have been telling her for a long time she should either talk to her sister or stop complaining about him. She says talking with her sister won't do any good and will only ruin her relationship with her sister. I think it's at least worth a try. What do you think?
– Long Ride Home
I think it could be worse. For instance, your sister-in-law could live in Lubbock ... or maybe Texarkana. Either way, you definitely dodged a geographical bullet. Houston, even allowing for its hellishly psychotic death cult drivers and senselessly Byzantine road network, is still a refreshing hop, skip, and jump from Austin. People in L.A. have longer commutes. Of course, saying someone lives in Houston is irresponsibly nonspecific. There's a huge difference between Katy, Houston, and Baytown – and yes, I'm talking about mileage and not the number of remaining digits on the hands of their respective inhabitants. We all know that Katy residents think their shit don't stink if they have more than one knuckle on their ring fingers. I know some of you might be confused right now, but that's only because you haven't spent any quality time in Baytown.
Don't even get me started talking about Galveston. The only thing you really need to know about Galveston is that it's a day's drive. I tried it too many times to believe the ridiculous myth that it's only four hours from Austin to the seawall. That's pure tourist brochure bullshit. No matter what Google Maps tries to tell you, the road from Austin to Galveston inevitably meanders through an interminable line at Hruska's Bakery, a couple of missed turnpike exits, the sadly understocked swimsuit aisle of a Walmart off the Gulf Freeway, and about five hours of bumper-to-bumper traffic on said freeway during which you will turn an empty Gatorade bottle into a makeshift urinal – but only if you were smart enough to buy Gatorade at Hruska's instead of being a cheapskate and buying one of those flimsy Ozarka bottles that can barely hold water, much less eight hours of troublingly orange, backed up urine. You're better off just letting your bladder explode.
Here's hoping your insufferable brother-in-law lives in Sealy, Houston, or Hempstead, Houston, rather than Mont Belvieu, Houston, or Crosby, Houston. Oh, and also, just to keep things spicy in your marriage I would love to declare one of you a clear winner, but sadly, you're both kinda right. How satisfying is that? Probably not very, eh? But your wife is on the money with the idea that complaining to her sister about the guy she chose to marry (who was clearly the love of her life – who has that kind of patience?) is not going to yield a positive outcome. Your belief that nothing will change if she says nothing is also true to a limited extent. I mean, we do have to allow for the incredibly slim chance that, on his own, your brother-in-law will have some sort of epiphany that turns him into a zen übermensch like Keanu Reeves. If the Angel of the Lord could smite Saul on the road to Damascus, you'd think he could find the time to at least backhand your brother-in-law on the Gulf Freeway. You know he's going to be there five hours minimum anyway.
Truly, the only thing that is likely to have an effect on your brother-in-law's behavior is your wife calmly communicating how he might improve himself as a human being to live up to her standards. That would definitely be some brass balled shit on her part, and would likely have disastrous consequences, but she just might earn his respect – or perhaps his eternal ire.
In my humble opinion, the safest move is for your wife to take some quiet time ... maybe a two-and-a-half hour drive ... and thoughtfully explore why her brother-in-law winds her up so badly. I have learned that whenever I find myself hating someone, it's usually because I have made a lot of assumptions about who they are and what they've been through. I will admit that it's probably hard to empathize with someone who acts like he's Bud from Urban Cowboy, but as we all know, Bud was really just a sensitive guy trying to act tough. Maybe with some kindness and empathy, your wife can crack that nut.
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